Should You Use a Wood or Plastic Cutting Board?

    What you need to know about the food safety properties of both

    Cutting board 1/2 wood 1/2 plastic with tomatoes and knife on top Photo Illustration: Consumer Reports, Getty Images

    Wood vs. plastic cutting boards: Which one to use is a quandary for many people, especially as we approach the holidays and spend more time in the kitchen. Food safety experts used to warn against using wood cutting boards, saying they were more likely to harbor bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, like E. coli or salmonella, than plastic cutting boards. But while both types have their pros and cons, research shows that either wood cutting boards or plastic cutting boards can be safe if you follow some simple steps.

    Use at least two. “Have one cutting board for raw meat, fish, and poultry,” says Sana Mujahid, PhD, manager of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. “Have a separate cutting board for ready-to-eat items such as bread, fruits, and vegetables.” This helps prevent cross-contamination—for example, you don’t run the risk of transferring salmonella or another type of bacteria from chicken to your veggies if you cut them on different surfaces.

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    Clean thoroughly. Even if you’re just slicing a loaf of bread, it’s good to get in the habit of washing cutting boards—wood or plastic—with hot, soapy water after every use. Most plastic boards can also go in the dishwasher. Periodically sanitize both wood and plastic boards by flooding the surface with a diluted bleach solution (1 gallon of water mixed with 1 tablespoon of bleach). Then rinse with plain water. Always dry cutting boards completely before storing them, so moisture-loving bacteria have less opportunity to grow.

    Know when to buy a new board. Over time, any cutting board (plastic or wood) can develop deep scratches or grooves that may trap bacteria, which could then spread to your food. Harder materials, such as bamboo and maple, are less prone to scarring than softer woods, such as cypress. Replace any cutting board when it becomes heavily scarred.

    Looking for some new options? Check out our recent evaluation of the best cutting boards, or shop our editor’s picks, below.

    Carrollar Flexible Plastic Cutting Board Mats
    From: $8 for four
    Dimensions: 15x12 inches
    Where to buy: Amazon, Kmart

    Original Gorilla Grip Cutting Boards
    From: $25 for three
    Dimensions: 16x11.2 inches (large), 13.8x9.6 inches (medium), 11.8x8 inches (small)
    Where to buy: Amazon, Gorilla Grip, Walmart

    Teakhaus Traditional Edge Grain Professional Cutting Board
    From: $100
    Dimensions: 24x18x1.5 inches
    Where to buy: Amazon, Teakhaus

    Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article appeared in the June 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.